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Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown last week appointed Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie (Tawk Sawn-o-lay Gilespee) as director of the newly established Governor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement. In June 2021, the Legislature passed SB 778, approved the creation of the new office to advocate for and connect people to statewide immigrant and refugee programs and organizations helping to reduce social, economic, and health disparities. Soneoulay-Gillespie’s appointment is effective March 7.

“In Oregon, we have a long tradition of welcoming refugees and immigrants from around the world into our communities,” said Governor Brown. “The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement, with Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie as director, will help Oregon continue to be an inclusive place for all who call our state home – including and especially our immigrant and refugee communities. Toc’s long history of social justice advocacy work and refugee resettlement combined with her lived experience as a refugee will serve Oregonians very well. I also would like to thank Senator Kayse Jama for his continued advocacy of refugee and immigrant families, and working tirelessly across the aisle to pass Senate Bill 778."

Soneoulay-Gillespie brings over 20 years of social justice advocacy to her role as Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement. She also will be bringing her lived experience to the role as a refugee from Laos who resettled to the United States with her parents. Soneoulay-Gillespie currently serves as the Director of Community Health for Health Share of Oregon. She was a council member on the Governor’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council from 2019-2021 and is currently a Commissioner on the Oregon Commission on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs. Prior to this, she worked as a social services manager for CareOregon. From 2013 to 2017, Soneoulay-Gillespie worked as the Director of Refugee Resettlement for Catholic Charities. Prior to that, she was the Program Manager of Youth and Family Services for Impact NW. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology/sociology from Eastern Oregon University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

A headshot of Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie is available here.

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